Today is Mad Hatter Day. (At least in the US. I guess it’d be June 10th in Europe.) Mad Hatter Day was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
Category Archives: Books
For the most part I really enjoyed this book. It’s a fun read with some excellent lines.*
I appreciate her efforts to clearly explain things as vastly different as the geological and biological processes that create gemstones and pearls, and different concepts of value to the psychology of want and envy and their roles both in marketing and the shaping of the political world.
I was reviewing a children’s nonfiction graphic novel on dinosaurs-First Second Press’s Science Comics (love the concept!) Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers. It was more about the discovery and scientists than dinosaurs themselves. There were some aspects of the book that I liked, some I wasn’t so fond of.
One thing that did catch my eye was the name Mignon Talbot. They mentioned that she was the first woman to name a dinosaur. I hadn’t heard of her before. So of course I had to hunt down a little more information. She was a professor of Geology and Geography at Mount Holyoke College for thirty-one years in the early 20th century.
Today is the sort of traditionally celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday. We don’t know the exact date. We know he was baptized on the 26th of April 1564, and that he died on the 23rd of April 1616. I’m not sure when it became a tradition to celebrate his birthday on the day of his death.
I always intend on a really ambitious classic reading binge around banned books week, and then I get there I look up from the book I’m reading, get a little embarrassed and figure maybe next year.
Of course, at this point so many books are being challenged that you can practically trip over them. I’m almost done with John Green’s Looking for Alaska, it was on my ‘I’ve been meaning to read’ list for ages, it apparently was also one of the top ten challenged books for last year. As was the excellent Thirteen Reasons Why, and Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories series which I remember fondly from elementary school.
A few years ago the New York Times had an article on ways to celebrate Banned Books Week. Interesting that they’ve not revisited it…
One of the standard arguments is that now books aren’t totally banned, they’re still available for purchase even if they aren’t available at the library-so there’s no need for this hoopla, right?
Challenging books in public libraries and schools is still a first amendment matter, and letting a small group of people choose what can and can’t be allowed in schools or libraries is a huge threat.
The ALA site has some fantastic quotes regarding intellectual freedom. There’s a long John Stuart Mill quote from On Liberty:
“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
I’m not a George Bernard Shaw fan, but I do love quotes, so I need to add this one:
“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.”
Among the frequently challenged classics, my favorites are probably Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World. Besides being pathetic, full stop, it also strikes me as pathetically hilarious that people keep trying to ban them. Missing the point much?
Perhaps since I still had bats on the brain, I ran across a children’s/YA book on bats. It’s called The Bat Scientists. The author is Mary Carson and the photographer is Tom Uhlman.
I was really impressed with both its information and photography. The updated edition came out just this month and has the latest information on WNS and conservation.
Even though it’s a children’s book, it seems like a great quick introduction for adults and teenagers, and has materials in the back for further research.
A few facts from the book, some I knew, some were new to me.
- Bats aren’t blind-they see fairly well.
- They aren’t going to get tangled in your hair-bats avoid people and fly too well to get in hair.
- Bats are often called flying rats or mice, but they aren’t rodents. Some scientists think they’re primitive primate relatives.
- They’re the only mammal capable of true flight. (As opposed to gliding.)
- For their size, bats are the longest lived mammals on earth-even the small ones can live for 40 years! (With mammals generally the larger the size the longer the life span.)
- Since people associate them with the short lived and fast breeding mouse, they assume bats work the same way, but bats breed very slowly-most have at most one offspring a year. The author quotes biologist Barbara French “One lost baby bat is a lost generation.”
- Less than one half of one percent have rabies-they’re not crazy flying animals out to get you.
It also mentioned an interesting project I’d not heard about. The Bellamy Cave Project. Apparently Bellamy Cave in Tennessee is a major hibernation cave for the endangered gray bat. Last year the Nature Conservancy is mad a concrete cave nearby. The idea was that a concrete cave could be cleaned out and disinfected come spring, hopefully slowing the spread of WNS.
They had limited time last year and finished construction after hibernation started, but they did have a few guests. They’re hoping to see more visitors this year since the precast/prefabricated concrete cave will be ready and the proper temperature in time for hibernation season.